Woke universities must stop attacking our farmers

Published by freemarketconservatives on


Another week, another attack on farming communities and freedom of choice. This time we head over to East Anglia.

It was revealed that a tiny number of students at the University of East Anglia (UEA) had voted in their council meeting to ban beef on campus. I can hear the collective sigh among you. 

In what looks like a classic pattern in the series of unfortunate events that led to this bizarre decision, it appears there had been no consultation with the wider student body. It is not clear whether the ‘ban’ has actually been introduced yet.

Unsurprisingly, many students have taken to social media to outline their annoyance at this illogical decision, which blatantly ignores the facts before us.

The recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)makes very clear the importance of consuming animal products as part of a balanced diet and that when produced sustainably in low greenhouse gas emission systems, it is actually part of the solution to climate change.

The decision to ban beef also fails to recognise the important steps being taken by farmers to commit to tackling climate change including the commendable plan for the industry to be net zero by 2040.

In reality, Universities have other *glaring* areas of concern they should be looking at getting under control in the fight against climate change. The massive elephant in the room being the number of flights their staff take for ‘research purposes’ and ‘academic conferences’ both abroad and here in the UK. 

By implementing bans like this- which on the face of it appear more like headline chasers than anything else ; institutions invite scrutiny. 

When Cambridge banned red meat at its food outlets, it too, had hoped to make inroads into fighting carbon emissions. Now they’ve found themselves in a very sticky situation.

It’s well known that academic institutions enjoy having their staff fly the world to promote their brand and scholarly work.  With this in mind, the Countryside Alliance asked Cambridge University how many flights and to where, they had booked for their staff in the period covering the introduction of the ban. It did so under the Freedom of Information Act.

The returns were shocking. Over 17,000 flights costing a total of over £13million in just over 3.5 years. The locations included, but were certainly not limited to Orlando, Hawaii, Las Vegas, Saint Vincent, Ibiza and Zakynthos. 

Among the hundreds of locations were several destinations easily reachable by train from either Cambridge or London including Paris, Amsterdam and Glasgow. 

How, given this revelation, could the University seriously try to tell the public that there could be “no other interventions” to tackling carbon emissions? 

They claimed in an external report ‘Our Sustainable Food Journey’ that the total carbon emissions cut since introducing the red meat ban were 500 tonnes annually. If you just take out flights to New York, Las Vegas and Sydney (not considering any other Australian or American location) the emissions cut would be greater each year. There would be no need to ban red meat.

The University of Cambridge wanted to pull in the headlines when announcing the controversial decision to ban red meat. When questioned, the University offered little in the way of a defence when presented with accusations of hypocrisy.

We appreciate that it falls on all of us to do our part in tackling the very real problems relating to climate change. There is, however, a very valid argument that by sourcing grass fed, locally sourced beef and lamb, and by reviewing their airline flight policy, universities like Cambridge, Goldsmiths and UEA could have a far greater impact on reducing carbon emissions.

I hope common sense prevails and the UEA take the time to meet with local livestock farmers before enforcing such an unnecessary ban.

Mo Metcalf-Fisher is a political commentator and spokesman for the Countryside Alliance. Follow him on twitter: @mometfisher

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